closeup image of a woman opening her jacket to display a mental health awareness shirt

Recognizing Signs of Perinatal Anxiety & Depression

recognizing signs of perinatal anxiety & depression

This webinar took place on May 17, 2021, during Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month. It was hosted by Boober in partnership with Hatch. It was hosted by Jada Shapiro, founder of Boober, and featured Olivia Bergeron, LCSW, psychotherapist and parent coach at Mommy Grove (and a provider on the boober platform) and Jabina Coleman, LSW, MSW, IBCLC, lactation therapist and psychotherapist, and public speaker leading the movement “Everyone Wants to Hold the Baby; Who Will Hold the Mother?”. The following is a compilation of answers from Jabina and Olivia on various mental health questions regarding mothers in their prenatal and postpartum periods

This month is maternal mental health awareness month. Why does this specific awareness month exist?

Mental health is the number one complication related to childbearing women. It is not only widespread, but it is detectable and treatable. Both Olivia and Jabina agree that it is important to bring awareness to an issue that is a hidden terror. Jabina shared the statistic that 50% of deaths in childbearing women have a mental health diagnosis. It is important to remember, as Olivia stated, that PMADs, or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, are not your fault, and are very common! You should never be ashamed to reach out. 

What are some symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety? 

A lot of women ask about symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety, and how it is different from “baby blues”. While the symptoms are fairly similar, the difference comes in the time frame and severity. Both baby blues and PMADs have symptoms such as guilt, anger, insomnia, mind racing, and the like. It’s important to note that baby blues should only last 1-2 weeks postpartum. If these symptoms persist for longer than that, or if they become more severe than normal, or if you are unable to bounce back from symptoms, that is a good time to reach out!

What about risk factors for PMADS?

Just like general mental health disorders, PMADs stem from both genetic and environmental factors. Some genetic factors include a history of postpartum depression or anxiety, such as if you had it with your past child, biological or genetic dispositions for mental illness, past mental illness diagnosis, or if your parents had a past mental health diagnosis. Some environmental factors include a traumatic birth, with trauma being in the eye of the mother, stresses on life such as divorce, new job or a new move, socioeconomic status, age, number of children, or, in this day and age, generational or pandemic trauma. It’s important to note that while these are risk factors, they do not guarantee that you will develop any type of PMAD! 

There is a lot of stigma associated with mental health, especially in motherhood. What are some things we can do to work towards breaking it?

There is a lot of stigma specifically around being an unfit parent or mother if you have mental health issues. There are especially issues when mothers see the good in the media but not the bad. Jabina shares that it’s important to show both the good and the bad of motherhood, and to make sure to be transparent and create a space to be open and share experiences. Olivia seconds those beliefs, and again states the importance of knowing that your feelings are okay and valid, and they do not make you any less of a parent for having them

How do you know when to get help, or if you even need it?

Some important factors in knowing when to reach out are if you can’t shake the feelings that you’re having, especially if they are going on for multiple weeks. There is no point in needless suffering. As well as this, if others are noticing a shift, make sure to have a discussion with them, and see what they’re seeing!

Help is always important, but it doesn’t need to be therapy! Finding a mother group is a great first step if you are nervous to start therapy. Jabina also states that therapy does not need to delve deep into your personal life. It can start where you are right now, and build from there. She also mentions that a good idea is to interview your therapist during pregnancy. You might be very worn out during postpartum, and having someone to support you during that time is incredibly important

Olivia seconds all of these beliefs, but also mentions that finding help is a strength, not a weakness! Would you want your partner or child to go through what you are going through alone? Of course not! She insists that it takes a village to raise a child. Whether it is your therapist, your family, or your chosen family, having people to support you is important. 

What are some good ways to provide yourself with self care during the challenging postpartum times?

Self care is always important, even though it’s not always possible with a newborn. If you are struggling, try these few tips and tricks! Both Olivia and Jabina recommend breathing techniques, from square breathing (4 in, 4 hold, 4 out) to various intervals. It could also be 5-10 minutes alone in the shower/bath, or even 5 minutes of fun to yourself! Remember that self care is not selfish, and even a little bit of time when you’re feeling overwhelmed makes all the difference

What does it look like to reach out to a typical postpartum therapist?

Both of them start with a 15 minute consultation where they talk with their client about why they’re interested in therapy, what they want to accomplish, and how things work. After that appointment, they see if they’re a good fit for the client! That either ends with a referral or setting up regular appointments. Reaching out is always the hardest part, so it’s important to not be afraid! All appointments are virtual currently, but they might go back to in person once things return to normal!

What are some tips and tricks I can use in my daily life if I’m not ready for therapy?

Many people are nervous about therapy, so don’t worry! There are lots of tips and tricks to help if you’re nervous to reach out. For one, if your thoughts are racing at the end of a busy day, write them down in a notebook next to your bed. They will be there when you wake up, so there’s no need to panic about them now! There are also, again, different breathing techniques or even looking for different important features in what you can see to break up your thoughts. All of these techniques help to keep your mind from racing too fast!

It’s also important to get help from others! If you have someone you can confide in, whether it be a spouse, friend, or therapist, those are always important. It takes a lot of energy to keep up a happy facade, and sometimes the word “fine” does not always mean you’re feeling fine!

Lastly, it’s important to remember that social media is not the end all be all. Make sure to curate your feed to the things that you want to see, and even stay off of it for 1-2 weeks. A lot of new mothers see the bounce back on social media, but they have no idea what was happening 3 seconds before or after that picture. Remember that not all pregnancies are the same, but each and every one of them is valid.